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Lindemann on Advent 1

by revalkorn ~ November 22nd, 2010


The commemoration of our Lord’s birth has become the outstanding feature of the Christmas season. The weeks before the Holy Nativity are given over almost completely to the First Advent. Modern Christendom has made the season a holy drama of the Birth. As the antidote against the tendency to secularize and sentimentalize the Nativity, the Liturgy not only offers history and memory but also impresses on the faithful the reality of a present grace by teaching that the First Advent be regarded as a symbol and picture of the Lord’s Constant Coming in Grace, of Christ’s Advent in His Word and Sacrament.

The First Sunday in Advent is the Church’s New Year, the beginning of the Christian Year, the Year of Grace. The year begins with the believing, waiting, expectant Church looking forward to the coming of the Promised One, the Savior. As we enter the year, we are greeted by the announcement: “Behold, your King is coming to you!” For His coming we prepare in these weeks. His Advent on the great day of the Nativity is not and can never be an actual experience, for it is an event of the past. Also His Coming in Grace through Word and Sacrament is nothing new. We have never been without His gracious presence. He never ceases to come in His grace and to bless us. If, then, we are to prepare for the historic event of the Advent in Bethlehem, the purpose of our preparation can only be to make us thoroughly conscious of the relation in which we stand to Him. We do not wish to commemorate the Nativity merely with the thought of a little Babe born in a stable or as the anniversary of a historical event. At the Manger we must realize what we really are and where we stand in the light of the completed plan of which Christmas is a part. When we hear that our King is coming, this message is the call to prepare by opening our hearts to His grace. We need not fear, for He comes in meekness and lowliness. But He comes as King, mighty to save, full of grace and truth.

When we speak of the First Sunday in Advent as the beginning of a new year, this does not mean that something new is actually beginning. The Last Sunday after Trinity has more of Advent than of Trinity. In the Common Service Book, the Introit for the Sunday before Advent speaks of the coming of the Alpha and Omega. “The tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them…. God shall be with them…. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall came in.” The Epistle calls upon the faithful to be ready for the Lord’s coming. “Come, Lord Jesus!” rings through the Gradual. The Gospel ends on the note: “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” The Propers for the First Sunday in Advent, the first in the new year, carry this thought over from the last of the old year. The faithful are waiting, trusting. Let none that wait for Thee be put to shame! Stir up Thy power and come! The Epistle instructs how to prepare for the Advent. It is clear that we shall not fully meet the requirements of the Propers for the First Sunday if we limit the Advent to our Lord’s coming to His earthly Zion in His Word and Sacrament.

The Introit. “Unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in Thee; let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed. Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths.”

A new year begins. We know not what it will bring. But it will be a year of grace. God will come to His beloved day by day and lead them to green pastures and still waters. The personal note is clear. Confidently, trustingly, I lift my soul to God. I have powerful enemies, but God will not permit them to triumph. I wait on Him for help and deliverance. He will show me His ways and teach me His paths. The promised and accepted relationship is individual and personal.

The Collect. “Stir up, we beseech Thee, Thy power, O Lord, and come; that by Thy protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Thy mighty deliverance; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.”

This prayer is addressed to God the Son. We pray, “Come!” Maranatha! For what? Rescue and deliverance from sin and its consequences. We wait, we hope, we trust. Sinners exiled from God, beset by powerful enemies, threatened by the perils of our sins, we pray that the Son of God stir up His power and come. This is the great prayer of preparation throughout the Advent Season until Christmas Eve. We are preparing for Christmas, but if we are ready for one manner of Coming, we are equally ready for every Coming in life or death. We pray not only that the Lord take possession of our souls when He comes at Christmas, not only that He come in His Word and Sacrament through the year that lies ahead, but also that He come and save us by His mighty deliverance at His Second Coming in Glory.

The Epistle (Rom. 13:11-14). We dare not lose sight of the fact that the preparation of which St. Paul speaks here is for the Second Coming at the end of the world. The Advents are connected. If we are prepared for our Lord’s Coming in His Word and Sacrament, we are fully prepared also for the Second Coming. At the First He came to purchase salvation by His death, at the Second He will come to bring the fullness of salvation. He who lives in readiness for the Advent in Glory is prepared to receive the King when He comes visibly in Bethlehem and also invisibly in His Means of Grace. The Epistle instructs as to the manner in which we are to prepare for Christ’s Advent, past, present, and future. Below is an attempt to outline this lesson of the Epistle.

The Gradual. “All they that wait for Thee shall not be ashamed. Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths. Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation.”

We have here an echo of the Introit and the Collect. The Gradual connects the thoughts of the Epistle with those of the Gospel. The rubric states that “when the Gradual is omitted, the Alleluia or the Sentence for the Season may be sung.” Therefore the Sentence is included at this point.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies, for they have been ever of old. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Matt. 21:1-9) proclaims to the waiting Church that the events of Palm Sunday were a fulfillment of the hope and expectation stirred up and kept alive by ancient prophets. Isaiah had promised: “Behold, your salvation comes.” Zechariah had foretold: “Lo, your King comes to you; triumphant and victorious is He, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass.” He comes to His people meek and lowly, yet triumphant and victorious, bringing sal-vation, glorious in His power to save. Stir up Thy power and come, the power of the King who comes to redeem and save, the power of Immanuel, God with us.

The Proper Preface. “Whose way John the Baptist prepared, proclaiming Him the Messiah, the very Lamb of God, and calling sinners to repentance that they might escape from the wrath to be revealed when He cometh again in glory.”

How to Prepare for Our Lord’s Advent

A. By Knowing the Time, its shortness, possibilities, uncertainty, and its inadequacy for the solemn work to be done in it. Fear of the King’s displeasure and judgment or the desire to escape His condemnation are not the motivation. We are drawn by the love that prepared our redemption and gave us the hope of salvation. There is urgency, for the salvation our Lord will bring at His return is nearer to us now than when we were brought to faith. Yet its nearness should curb our impatience and instill new hope. Then let us hold fast a little longer.

B. By Using the Time. This life is the night, eternity is the morning. The night is far spent. We are to cast off the works and ways of this life’s darkness and put on the armor of light, the holiness that is bright and safe as armor, that wearing it and fighting in it to the last, we may be welcomed by the King at His appearance.

C. By Putting on Christ. His merits are to be our hope, His life is to be our example, His character is to be as the clothing of our spirits. Clothed in the light, Satan cannot hurt us, and the King will recognize us as His own. So shall we be fully prepared for His coming.


For our example the Holy Gospel tells us how Jerusalem prepared to meet her King, that we may prepare to meet Him as He comes to His holy city, His Church.

A. The Preparation by the Disciples. Two disciples were sent to make preparations for the King’s entry, very simple but very significant preparations, showing both His great humility and His kingly claims. Only dimly at best did the disciples sense the significance of what they were doing and what was to follow, but they knew their Lord, His power and omniscience, and followed His directions trustingly and willingly. His disciples today must labor with such readiness for their Lord’s sake. He needs many loyal and eager hearts to come in triumph.

B. The Preparation of the Multitude. The people prepared His way as best they could with garments and branches. They prepared also a sweet song of salvation for the Savior-King. The desire for salvation is the great mark of readiness. “Hosanna, save now!” is the song the King longs to hear as He comes.


A practical application of the day’s main thought to the Lord’s Supper will be appreciated by the faithful. The majority has been instructed and trained to come to the Lord’s Table solely to receive forgiveness and has never learned to look for and expect the almost countless fruits of forgiveness. In speaking to his flock of life and salvation as the blessed fruits of forgiveness, the shepherd must ever keep in mind that he is dealing with saints of God, sanctified and holy men and women. They were washed clean in Holy Baptism. In the preparatory part of the Service they were again assured in the name of the Triune God and by His authority that all their sins were cast into the sea of forgetfulness. Throughout the Liturgy they speak to God, and He to them, as redeemed and forgiven. By eating and drinking the are about to proclaim that they firmly believe the Lord Jesus died for them. They are not coming to the Lord’s Table solely to seek forgiveness or to proclaim that they are forgiven. These saints go beyond forgiveness also to the blessings and gifts that are theirs as a result and consequence of their forgiveness. They eat and drink in remembrance of their Lord, to His memory or memorial. They recall not only that He died for them. True, He whom they remember was never more Himself than in His death for them, but there is more about Him to remember. To remember Him, His Person, means to recall all about Him, all that He was and is, all that He said and promised, all that He did, does, and will do. They remember that He redeemed and saved them not only from the consequences but also from the power and service of sin. By His death He purchased them to be His own that they may live under Him and serve Him as their King.

What is there to remember about our Lord and King on the First Sunday in Advent? The Proper Preface for Advent speaks of preparing for His coming by repentance and of His coming again in glory. On this Sunday we emphasize His gracious coming in Word and Sacrament. Our King comes to live with us for another year in grace and mercy. He brings us salvation. Our redemption is finished and accomplished, but salvation is a continuing process. Day by day He saves us from some besetting sin, some weakness or doubt or unbelief, from self-love and selfishness and lovelessness. He comes in His Word and Sacrament. Historical Lutheranism does not divide into coming in His Word and coming in His Sacrament. For the two cannot be separated. The sermon is not exclusively the Word. Our Small Catechism states that in the Holy Sacrament Christ’s words are as the chief thing besides bodily eating and drinking. So the Word of Christ is also in the Lord’s Supper. Our Liturgy brings the Word, in the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Preface, Sanctus, Benedictus, Narrative, and during Communication. In the Lord’s Supper the King comes to His be-loved in His Word.

As we eat and drink, we enter into communion with the King of our salvation. We become parties to the covenant of forgiveness that was established when He gave His body and shed His blood. By entering upon the covenant we acknowledge Christ to be our King and pledge to serve Him. We agree to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light. We resolve to conduct ourselves becomingly and to make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. We put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s coming to Jerusalem as Savior and Deliverer reminds us that our King will come again to bring full salvation and complete deliverance to His own. The night is far spent, and this salvation is nearer than when we first came to believe. We pray that by our King’s power we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by His mighty deliverance. As the believer enters into communion with his King, he enters upon the agreement that he will prepare his heart by faithfully and trustingly obeying his Lord in the ways He will show him and in the paths He will teach him.

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